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Offit's Lies: Paul Offit Reponds

What's answer By J. B. Handley
 
A quick recap (it's been a long time):

It was October 2005. Generation Rescue had only been up and running for about 5 months, and we had 125 brave souls who had put their names, locations, and emails on our website to serve as Rescue Angels to help other parents (today we have more than 800) on their journey through biomedical intervention.

On or around October 10th of that year, I heard from a Rescue Angel Mom who was extremely distraught. It turned out that someone, most likely a member of the "ND" community, had blended a post they had seen from her on a message board, her Rescue Angel information, and somehow figured out where she worked. This person had contacted the Rescue Angel's employer and told them something to the effect of, "Your employee is a volunteer of this organization, believes and says a lot of scary things about autism [like that it's triggered by vaccines and is treatable], and why is she allowed to say and do these things and work here?" 

This Rescue Angel mom had just been through a meeting with her employer, which I believe was a public school, where she'd had to respond to this anonymous mudsling, and she was understandably very, very upset.

I, too, was irate. The thought that people were trying to impact the livelihoods of our Rescue Angels was incomprehensible, and I felt personally responsible for the plight of this Mom, having created the group that got her into this whole mess.

Knowing that many of our enemies were avid readers of a public message board where we all congregated, I fired off a warning to the person responsible that read:

Dear N.D. folks monitoring this list:

I have no respect for your "movement".

You are now spending your time actively hassling our Rescue Angels. We are spending out time constructively engaging doctors to help our babies. If you don't like what we have to say, stop listening.

We will bring the full resources of myself and Generation Rescue to stop this. We will sue you for libel and we will go after your homes and assets. My lawyers live to investigate and sue people like you.
This will be your only warning.

Sincerely,
JB Handley

*        *

My message is still up there on the EOH message board, it's message #17717 and you can read it for yourself. Now, you may disagree with the message I wrote, you may disagree with its tone, and you may disagree with my reaction to the situation at hand. But, at least you know the circumstances that surrounded the decision I made, and that's what I really want you to know.

I really want you to know and understand what happened and why I wrote the note I wrote because once you do, you can see what a profoundly dishonest and manipulative liar Paul Offit really is.

You see, this post from EOH, or at least an excerpt from it, actually made it in to Paul Offit's book, that book that will remain nameless, but the one we all know the name of. Yup, a piece of my post from EOH, the one where I was trying to tell the person hassling one of our Rescue Angels at work to back the hell off, made Offit's book.

But, you wouldn't know that from what Offit wrote.

You see, Paul Offit has a passage using a portion of this post, but it's used for an entirely different reason. Rather than try to explain, I'm just going to share the passage from the book that will remain nameless, on page 145:

"SEIDEL WAS ALSO APPALLED BY THE GEIERS' AND JB HANDLEY'S constant promotion of chelation therapy as a cure for autism. In 2000, only a handful of children were chelated; by 2005, the number had purportedly climbed to more than 10,000 a year. On her Web site, Seidel pleaded with Handley to stop promoting a "therapy" that had never been shown to work and was potentially dangerous. Handley wrote back: "We are spending out time constructively engaging doctors to help our babies. If you don't like what we have to say, stop listening. We will bring the full resources of myself and Generation Rescue to stop this. We will sue you for libel and we will go after your homes and assets. My lawyers live to investigate and sue people like you. This will be your only warning."
Well, I'll be damned.

A post I wrote on a public message board regarding someone hassling our Rescue Angels was now a response to Kathleen Seidel? A response that never actually took place in an exchange that Offit manufactured from thin air? I threatened to sue her for challenging me on the "promotion" of chelation therapy?

I'll be damned again.

So, there it is folks. Offit made up a conversation that never took place and blended something I wrote on a public message board for an entirely different reason to serve his own purpose.

Soon after, I wrote the following:

Anyway, I found me a great attorney who eats nails for breakfast and believes in truth. He'll remain nameless for now because he didn't sign up to be part of this public journal, but here's a copy of the letter we sent, certified mail, to Dr. Proffit himself and Columbia University Press:

Paul A. Offit, M.D.
c/o Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023

Re: Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit, M.D.

Gentlemen:

I represent J.B. Handley, who is referred in the book Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. The conversation reported at page 143 of the book never occurred. The writing that the author refers to was in a different time and place.

The creation of that conversation and the juxtaposition of that conversation with Mr. Handley's writing are false, libelous and damaging.

Within ten days you must advise me that the author will write a written apology to Mr. Handley and that you will take out all reference to that conversation in any future printings, or we will explore our legal alternative.

Very truly yours,

(JB's lawyer)
*        *
So, now you are caught up on where I left things off. And, here's the latest, a response from an attorney for Paul Offit and Columbia University Press. Oddly, a request for a retraction and an apology ends as a lecture and a defense of the Rotavirus vaccine…
 
Linda Steinman
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
1633 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
lindasteinman@dwt.com
 
Re: Autism's False Prophets By Paul A. Offit, M.D.
 
Dear [JB's lawyer]:
 
I am counsel to Columbia University Press and Dr. Paul A. Offit and write in response to your letter dated October 30, 2008 on behalf of your client J.B. Handley.
 
Your allegation that Autism's False Prophets libels J.B. Handley on p. 145 is entirely baseless. As you know, a libel plaintiff bears the burden of proving substantial falsity. Masson v. New Yorker Magazine, Inc., 501 U.S. 496, 516-17 (1991)("it is sufficient if the substance of the charge be proved true, irrespective of slight inaccuracy in the details"); Patington v. Bugliosi, 56 F.3d 1147, 1161 (9th Cir. 1995) ("[In] determining the 'gist' or 'sting' of a newspaper article to assess whether it is actionable, a court must look at the highlight of the article, the pertinent angle of it, and not to items of secondary importance"); Printer II, Inc. v. Professional Pub, Inc., 784 F.2d 141, 146-147 (2d Cir. 1986).
 
Here, as demonstrated in the attached print-out, Mr. Handley addressed a posting on "Environment of Harm" "To the Neuro-Diverse Crowd reading this list." The posting came shortly after Kathleen Seidel's pleas on her website that Handley stop promoting a therapy that was potentially dangerous, and contains the very threats set forth in the book. The reference to "the Neuro-Diverse Crowd" was readily understood by Kathleen Seidel and others to refer to Seidel and her supporters, since her website is named "neurodiversity.com" and she is widely associated with that term. In short, your apparent quibble over whether Mr. Handley "wrote back" to Ms. Seidel as opposed to addressing threats to her in a written posting on a website is a trivial one and does not alter the sting of the passage. The thrust of the passage is that Mr. Handley launched inappropriate threats against Ms. Seidel, including the threat, "We will sue you for libel and will go after your home and assets. My lawyers live to investigate and sue people like you. This will be your only warning." That is unquestionably true.
 
Moreover, in the event that Mr. Handley brought suit, he would need to prove actual malice, since he is undoubtedly a limited purpose public figure. New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 279-80 (1964). Few libel plaintiffs can clear this onerous hurdle, as "the standard for actual malice is a daunting one." McFarlane v. Esquire Magazine, 74 F.3d 1296, 1308 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Dr. Offit, who had interviewed Kathleen Seidel, fully believed in the truth of the passage at issue and certainly did not act with knowledge of falsity or in "reckless disregard of the truth." Times v. Sullivan, supra.
 
In short, your letter threatening litigation appears to be yet another inappropriate effort by Mr. Handley to bully his detractors through meritless accusations of libel. Moreover, while Mr. Handley has accused my clients of libel for a responsible, thoughtful book, his own actions have been highly irresponsible.
 
In violation of Paul Offit's common law trademark rights, Mr. Handley has launched a website with the domain name "Paul Offit.com." Moreover, the website contains numerous false statements, and we demand that Mr. Handley cease making such false remarks. These include statements that Dr. Offit is paid by pharmaceutical companies to speak about vaccines and autism. Dr. Offit has never been paid by pharmaceutical companies to speak about vaccines and autism. He is the co-inventor and co-patent holder of a rotavirus vaccine, which has never been implicated as a cause of autism, and was compensated by his hospital (not Merck) for the development of a rotavirus vaccine. Moreover, Mr. Handley states that the rotavirus vaccine has been associated with more cases of intussesception (intestinal blockage) than a similar vaccine that was taken off of the market in 1999, thus implying that RotaTeq vaccine is unsafe. However, the CDC published a paper in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in March 2007 (MMWR, March 16, 2007, pages 218-222) clearly showing that the incidence of intussesception in children who received RotaTeq is actually less than children who didn't receive the vaccine. This report pre-dates Mr. Handley's posting by more than one year. His statement that RotaTeq vaccine is dangerous is contrary to the data, implies that Dr. Offit is the co-inventor of a dangerous vaccine, and misleads parents into possibly making the wrong decision for their children.
 
[Final paragraph omitted, discusses conflict rules between my attorney and Columbia University Press.]
 
Sincerely,
 
 
 
Linda Steinman

J.B. Handley is co-founder of www.generationrescue.org and a contributor to Age of Autism.

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For what it's worth to anyone, here's food for thought on the subject of herd immunity and "free riding" in a "free" society: I firmly believe that parents choose to either vaccinate their children or abstain for the same "selfish" reason: to protect their children. (As far as selfish motives go, it is a fairly benign one.) The only difference is in the perception of risk: vaccinators perceive more risk in the diseases, abstainers perceive more risk in the vaccines. Societal benefits derived from herd immunity are simply a by-product of mass vaccination, for which vaccinators should not solicit nor accept kudos. By the same token, abstainers should not be vilified and scapegoated for their choices.

The idea that abstainers are somehow more selfish than vaccinators is foolish and is put forth by public health officials and certain members of the medical community in an attempt to provoke outrage in vaccinators thereby creating more social pressure on abstainers. It's a time-tested method for provoking anger: make people believe they are being victimized or otherwise taken advantage of and they will react angrily (especially in the US and yes I'm an American). It also diverts attention from the main reason that herd immunity is an issue: because vaccines are not 100% effective.

And to the person who asked why physicians are commenting in legal journals: it is obvious that the attorneys are minimally educated on the medical facts regarding vaccination. Otherwise, they would have addressed the legal liability of two other groups: 1) those who vaccinate but are behind schedule and 2) individuals recently vaccinated with live-virus vaccines who may unwittingly spread disease via secondary transmission (viral shedding). Apparently attorneys need a medical expert to speak on this subject and I for one am glad it was J. Gordon and not P. Offit.

Randy,

It's quite a revolving door that would surely hit one of them square in the a$$ if they choose to open it. Canada certainly has more of a head on its shoulders, and allows basic freedoms that seem to be eroding here in the states. Not to mention they simply don't succumb to the game of fear up there.

They cannot prove (due to variables, and the fact that confounders increase over time) that the vaccination status of a child prevents the spread of disease. No one could, especially considering efficacy is determined almost solely by seroconversion. There are quite a few arguments for an unvaccinated person, even the scientific literature would support it fairly well and there are many that realize this but it's not stopping some from trying anyway.

It can be argued that the vaccine affects the vaccinee's symptom expression and simply keeps them subclinical. In this case, a person that is contagious, yet not showing proper symptoms to disease is more harmful to the health of the herd than an unvaccinated person that is visibly ill, and likely kept in quarantine until illness passes.

Now, the public nuisance direction is a bit different - but would still have a snowball effect if it were pursued. Where do we draw the line? Using vaccination status to determine whether one breaches their duty as a member of society will no doubt backfire if they try it.

AA

just to clarify my last comment re: "are they talking about the US?" - i realize that this paper and discussion is within the context of the US legal system, but the point was intended to be sarcastic - i.e. how can what they're suggesting happen in the US (or any free society, for that matter?) - the discussion and debate, fine, but in all these legal opinions nobody even seems to question where, exactly, in this "mountain of evidence" does the most basic test - a simple (yes - simple) and straightforward comparison of health outcomes between the "freeloaders" and the rest of the herd - actually reside? It's what we don't know about who we're destroying that makes the notion of throwing dissenters in jail even more sickening.

anonymous antivaccinationist - thanks - I really needed to read your post, after reading this legal review.

The first question that comes to mind when reading this document is "are they talking about the US?" I live in Canada, with more freedom of choice than many of you have in [certain States within] the US, but this still scares the hell out of me.

Randy,
Many within the legal community would love to use prior precedent (Jacobson vs. Mass) and apply it to life in the 21st century.

No doubt there will eventually be an attempt to resurrect this ancient decision. But there are significant limitations on what can be proved, many legal experts already know this. The only argument with any teeth is the public nuisance angle, and even then - I doubt it would get anywhere with the correct legal team.

AA

"Why are doctors writing opinion pieces in law journals?"

I think it's because of the medical premise upon which these arguments are based.

excerpt:
"Finally, the expectation that parents vaccinate their children to prevent harm to others is a reasonable one for several reasons. First, vaccination offers direct, demonstrated benefit to the child. Second, the safety of childhood vaccines is well established and the risk of serious side effects or complications is exceedingly rare. Finally, existing data clearly support the conclusion that the risks to a child of remaining unvaccinated, even in the United States, exceed any risks that might be attributable to vaccines themselves."

Jay Gordon's comments were an interjection of sanity by a subject matter expert, with regard to these assertions.

Many of these legal experts appear to be of the mind that there is some kind of expectation on the part of exemptors with respect to everyone else getting vax'd - an intent to ride free by design. If someone does something that indirectly benefits you, and you did not expect it or ask for it (or even want it), are you somehow still considered to be "taking advantage" of them and expected to "pay"? Should it be a one-size-fits-all contribution, regardless of your "ability to pay"? I'm no lawyer, but I wonder - if there is no such intent to "ride free", is there a legal argument here? And even if there is, then at the very least these opinions expressing that argument should be more considerate in the use of terms like "free-rider" and "freeloader" to describe the pro-choice community. SD is right - it's ugly. IMHO, beyond the legal / technical aspects, the overall tone of this paper is really presumptuous and condescending...

yeah well, autism doesn't discriminate. You would think there are enough Harvard grad lawyers affected by autism to start an entire pro bono law firm (Poisoned Ivy LLP?). In, fact a firm like DWT listing approx 569 attorneys (and their email addresses) probably has a few who wouldn’t mind helping JB out, much like the attorney below. I would chip to be able to read that deposition. I personally know a number of sharp attorneys of kids on the spectrum, and trust me, his credentials would not help in court up against the determination and skills of these folks

Why are doctors writing opinion pieces in law journals? I am not a lawyer, but basic rights are not a technical issue. It seems that selective laws don’t do so well. If you are not going to require uniform vaccination rates across all age groups, and not require foreign visitors to be equally vaccinated, I think you will have a hard time with selective liability. What's their next suggestion - suing those who buy organic milk when naturally raised cows get sick?

Regarding my recent comment, that web link isn't working, here's a link to the PDF version of the Michigan Law Review document http://michiganlawreview.org/firstimpressions/vol107/vaccination.pdf

Unfortunately, Offit has the financial resources to hire the big guns. Look up his attorney www.dwt.com. She represented the author Dan Brown re: The Da Vinci Code, as well as Gene Simmons (of the long tongue) regarding a KISS film. She was also the Director of litigation for Random House. Harvard law school, Yale undergrad, blah, blah.

The legal aspect of vaccine exemption is getting ugly. Check out this recent Michigan Law Revew piece on the potential legal liability of vaccine exemptors http://www.michiganlawreview.org/index-fi.htm. Thank goodness Jay Gordon got in a few words of sanity. Unbelievable.

My son Luke (5-1/2 ASD) has been getting IV chelation every 2 weeks for the past year and a half. 300mg IV EDTA and 900mg IV GSH, he is getting better and better. Everytime we chelate new skills emerge. He just learned how to pucker and give kisses! They are the best kisses I have ever had! Continue to tell people about the benefits of IV chelation continue to be our hero! Thank You, Kim Bastible

I agree with DadEsq. Additionally, the cited case law can be challenged, as they refer to magazine or newspaper articles, not a book (that continues to be printed and sold for profit to the direct, continuing benefit of this defendant). Authors of books give the connotation of authority, and of course, the author retains profit from its distribution and sale.

"Believing" whatever to be true is less applicable in this kind of tort (IMO), they are clearly using an excusable defense much like one would with fraud, I'm not sure how they would prove that - it'd likely just raise more questions... and eventually involve Seidel herself, and that might be a good thing.

I think it should be pursued as well.

AA

"While I think lawsuits should be approached carefully, and Dr. Offit would likely sue in return, I'd be more than happy to depose Dr. Offit pro bono. I think Dr. Offit would avoid a deposition at all costs, which may provide Mr. Handley with substantial leverage."

The "mountain of evidence" is a house of cards, and when ALL the cards are put on the table, the house of cards will collapse. It's tragic that this has to go to litigation, but simple facts and truthful answers to simple questions will never see the light of day otherwise. Dr Offit needs to be on the stand, on the record, and under oath, answering the simple questions that he and the kangaroo (media) court have so far managed to avoid or obfuscate. Kudos to DadEsq for extending his hand in that regard.

As one of the original Rescue Angels (something that fills me with pride), I'd like to mention that there are many of us who still receive malicious emails regularly. I have that old post by J.B. saved and rereading it always gives me the assurance that someone has my back. I’m truly horrified that Proffit would stoop so low as to use these same words slander this man who has truly made a difference to so many of our children.

The more they use these tactics, the more people like Offit et all prove who they really are and what they really care about.

These "ad hominem" tactics finally failed this election. Perhaps they will start to fail in this realm as well as people wake up to this essential fact:

--People like Offit have an obvious and huge profit motive
--People like JB and other autism parents have nothing to gain other than making their child's suffering not be for nothing

If that isn't enough to wake others up, they might as well stay asleep until they develop Alzheimers from all the Flu vaccines they will take unquestioningly.

Verbal vomit seeps through that letter.

Kudos to you, JB for getting past it. Best of luck with this--we're rooting for you!

Cathy

Sounds like Offit's lawyer is as much of a lying, wordy blowhard as Offit. No shock there.

Thank you, JB! You help keep us sane. :O)

Sounds like a first year law student wrote that letter.
I could have done better and I dropped out of law school after one year!

morons.

It is not up to them to assume what your email was about. They should have contacted you, told you it would be in the book and asked for a comment... if you gave them no comment then let them assume... etc etc.

I do hope your lawyer plays with them a little more --like the way my cat plays with a dead mouse.

And when your lawyer succeeds I would like to take him out to a breakfast of nails!

Offit's attorney writes, "Moreover, the website contains numerous false statements, and we demand that Mr. Handley cease making such false remarks. These include statements that Dr. Offit is paid by pharmaceutical companies to speak about vaccines and autism. Dr. Offit has never been paid by pharmaceutical companies to speak about vaccines and autism."

In the Congressional record, I find the following statement from Dan Burton during a hearing on vaccine conflicts, "At our April 6th autism hearing, Dr. Paul Offit disclosed that he holds a patent on a rotavirus vaccine and receives grant money
from Merck to develop this vaccine. He also disclosed that he is paid by the pharmaceutical industry to travel around the country and teach doctors that vaccines are safe. Dr. Offit is a member of
the CDC’s advisory committee and voted on three rotavirus issues, including making the recommendation of adding the rotavirus vaccine to the Vaccines for Children program."

Perhaps Dr. Offit's attorney does not have the full story.

As a practicing attorney, I believe Mr. Handley has a reasonable chance at success were he to pursue a lawsuit of Dr. Offit and the publisher. Rather than libel, the appropriate claim would be for "False Light."

It is clear that Mr. Handley has Dr. Offit on the facts: an exchange was presented in his book that never took place, and the quote from Mr. Handley has been taken out of context to make him look litigious and belligerent.

While I think lawsuits should be approached carefully, and Dr. Offit would likely sue in return, I'd be more than happy to depose Dr. Offit pro bono. I think Dr. Offit would avoid a deposition at all costs, which may provide Mr. Handley with substantial leverage.

DadEsq

Couple of things-

Firstly, this Seidel person lacks moral fiber, character, call it what you will, and has tried time and again to get all the people who help children on the autism spectrum into trouble. She, is pure evil.

Secondly, Offit (or Proffit), didn't realize how appropriate his name was before (God must have a sense of humor) -

"He is the co-inventor and co-patent holder of a rotavirus vaccine... and was compensated by his hospital for the development of a rotavirus vaccine."

is making money over claims that vaccines are safe which we all know to be false. The primary motivation for his deceit is monetary. The government needs to disallow these doctors/ biologists/ scientists from being allowed to patent and profit from pathogens. Unless that happens we will never see a return of the patient-doctor trust which has now been irrevocably lost.

"Dr. Offit has never been paid by pharmaceutical companies to speak about vaccines and autism."

Okay so he hasn't been paid to talk about vaccines AND autism, but has he been paid to talk about vaccines?

How twisted that the lawyer writes that Rotateq should be considered "safe" because intussusception occurs less with the vaccine than with the disease.

That's as ignorant as saying mercury in vaccines is safe because there's less now than there was in 1999. It's not eliminated -- it still exists! It's still dangerous!

And what a stretch of the imagination to assume that J.B. deigns to read Seidel's creepy blog, much less respond to it. The clear malice is part of what keeps sentient beings away after the first glance.


Thank you J.B. for everything you do. On my AO Radio show I spent fully two weeks "reviewing" profit's tripe and explaining what a fraud this idiot is. More people need to speak out because this is the crap that his minions in the ND community and elsewhere try to use against us. Those that have read the book, (hopefully borrowed,shoplifted or from a library) are able to easily defend their stance, those that haven't read it are woefully unable to defend against it.
You're a true hero in this community and I hope that you never let up!

In order to fit your EOH post into his book and into the context, Offit had to cut out the phrase which appeared before the one he used as an excerpt:

"You are now spending your time actively hassling our Rescue Angels".

Why would Offit cut that phrase if it in any way supported the implication that you were responding to Seidel's anti-chelation crusade?

Seems like there's grounds.

Offit's attorney letter is pretty awkward because the attorneys simply repeat Offit's vaccine propaganda like parrots. No one said Rotateq caused autism. They've said it *kills*. Furthermore, if Offit has ever led a continuing medical education seminar (Google "Paul Offit" and "Continuing Medical Education". He's a busy, busy man) funded by pharma through a third party (these third party organizations which arrange CME conferences are a kind of an open-secret pharma money-laundering effort), he's received pay to promote products if he did in fact promote the use of products.

I comfort myself that there is a special spot in hell for Paul Offit.

According to Offit's attorney Linda Steinman:

"Dr. Offit, who had interviewed Kathleen Seidel, fully believed in the truth of the passage at issue and certainly did not act with knowledge of falsity or in "reckless disregard of the truth.""

Really?

Of course he did. He simply took her word for it. No malice there... right! I wonder who else be trusted and printed their lies as facts. You'd think the book would have been researched for errors of fact PRIOR to publishing.

Stop the presses!

Perhaps if the people in this country faced the same demise for what they have done to our children as those in China have for adding melamine into the food supply - then maybe, just maybe, they would stop putting money before the health of the children in this world.

Not sure why we should expect anything different from autism's false "profit".

Seriously, I hope one day he has to serve jail time for knowingly lying to the American public. Give him a cell with Gerberding, and give them 10,000 vaccines a day.

Thank you JB for standing up for the truth.

His lawyer manipulates the facts to provide cover in the same manner that Offit himself spins his lies about vaccines. His book is rife with twisted half truths.
They won't go unchallenged and his book will be exposed for the fraud that it is.
Anne Dachel
Media editor

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